More fallout from Michael Avenatti arrest earlier this year. In a tactic to perhaps stall the trial or put attention on himself Avenatti is accusing feds of not allowing him to call high profile witnesses.
Prosecutors say California attorney Michael Avenatti was over $15million in debt when he tried to extort up to $25million from Nike, while Avenatti’s lawyers say the money he legally requested to conduct an internal probe of the sportswear giant was a bargain.
Avenatti is also accusing the federal government of blocking his attempts to call as a defense witness Mark Geragos, a high-profile lawyer.
Both sides made the assertions in court papers filed late Tuesday in advance of a January 22 criminal trial in Manhattan, giving US District Judge Paul G. Gardephe time to decide what the jury will be allowed to hear and see.
For Avenatti, it is the first of three scheduled trials in the next five months. He has denied all charges.
Criminal charges against him in other cases include allegations in New York that he defrauded ex-client porn star Stormy Daniels out of proceeds of a book deal and charges in Los Angeles that he defrauded clients of millions of dollars.
In their submission, federal prosecutors said they plan to show the jury that Avenatti owed ‘conservatively, in excess of $15million.’
Those debts were owed to former clients, one of more former law partners, both of his former spouses for child and spousal support in arrears and a lawyer the government has identified only as ‘Attorney-1,’ they said.
Avenatti was married to his first wife, Christine Avenatti Carlin, before they divorced.
From 2011 until 2017, Avenatti was married to Lisa Storie.
Avenatti and Carlin have two children. He has one child from his marriage with Storie.
Avenatti told The Associated Press on Wednesday that ‘any claim that I was $15million in debt is ridiculous, absurd and laughable.’
‘I look forward to the upcoming trial at which time I will be exonerated and the truth will be known,’ he said.
Prosecutors, however, say they plan to prove the debts through documents and testimony from a witness who helped Avenatti manage his finances and a law enforcement witness.
The evidence will prove ‘that he had extraordinary indebtedness, and thus the need and motive to quickly generate substantial sums of money at the time when he engaged in the charged conduct,’ prosecutors wrote.
They said the debts were relevant at trial to expose Avenatti’s motives, particularly because he has asserted that his motives were ‘benign or even altruistic.’
Avenatti’s lawyers asserted in their papers Tuesday that Avenatti late last winter was seeking between $15 and $20million to conduct an internal probe within Nike after lawyers for the company indicated they were interested in such a probe.
Avenatti’s lawyers said thousands of pages of documents submitted to federal prosecutors by Nike in response to a 2017 grand jury subpoena revealed that payments by Nike for the benefit of amateur players ‘were pervasive,’ including payments to high school players through at least 10 different coaches for a Nike-sponsored youth basketball league.
They cited a story by The New York Times that said internal investigations by companies can exceed $100million, saying Avenatti had sent a link to the story to Mark Geragos, a lawyer he hired to help negotiate with Nike on behalf of an amateur coach who wanted corruption to end.
Avenatti plans to seek testimony from Geragos at trial.
Avenatti’s defense lawyers said in a written submission that they have subpoenaed Geragos, a high-profile Los Angeles attorney, for their client’s trial
Prosecutors did not identify Geragos by name in the case involving Nike, but it was obvious that he was the person referred to in a criminal complaint and indictment as ‘CC-1’ and Avenatti’s lawyers said so in their latest filing.
They said Avenatti and Geragos ‘worked together in concert’ even though ‘only Mr. Avenatti has been prosecuted.’
They said Geragos ‘personally and through his counsel’ made it clear during seven ‘innocence proffers’ with prosecutors that he had no criminal intent and that he believed that he and Avenatti were right to insist to Nike that they be hired to conduct an internal investigation of the company.
Avenatti said Geragos and his lawyers also told prosecutors that it was not unusual for an attorney to be paid exponentially more than his client and that meetings with Nike’s attorneys were part of a standard negotiation, similar to what occurred when Geragos had represented Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback, against Nike.
Several weeks ago, prosecutors dropped conspiracy charges from the indictment against Avenatti, a move some interpreted as making it clear that Geragos would not be charged.
‘As much as the government now seems determined to write Mark Geragos out of this case, Mr. Geragos very much remains a central figure at the very heart of it,’ the Avenatti court filing said.
‘The facts and context of his involvement are of critical importance to Mr. Avenatti´s defense.’
The lawyers said it was Geragos who first reached out to Nike attorneys, saying in a March phone call that he had a matter too ‘sensitive’ to discuss by phone after he’d been shown ‘some stuff’ indicating Nike might have an ‘Adidas problem.’
In two recent trials, the rival shoemaker was mentioned with schools where assistant basketball coaches admitted receiving cash bribes to steer top athletes to certain advisers.
Avenatti’s lawyers wrote that even if he does not testify, Avenatti is ‘entitled to adduce evidence and offer argument that Mr. Geragos’ statements and conduct were plainly indicative of Mr. Geragos’ belief that their joint conduct was lawful and that this belief goes squarely to Mr. Avenatti’s own state of mind.’
The lawyers told the trial judge that prosecutors were trying to block Avenatti from presenting that side of the defense.
Geragos, whose clients also have included Michael Jackson, has not commented. He did not respond to a message Tuesday.
Avenatti also plans to assert that Nike, knowing federal prosecutors were investigating its role in payments to young athletes and basketball coaches, was motivated to cooperate against a high-profile person ‘against whom the leader of the Executive Branch had expressed disdain.’
President Donald Trump and Avenatti had criticized one another on the internet at a time when Avenatti was appearing frequently on television while he represented Daniels.
Daniels has said she had an affair with Trump before he became president.
Trump has denied it.